Friday, June 13, 2014

Tithes And Tithing: Why Tithing is Good For You - Malachi 3:10-12

Malachi 3:10 -12
10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
 11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts.
 12 And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts.

The tithe serves as an external, material testimony of God’s ownership of the material and spiritual things of our lives. The first place God’s Word mentions the tithe is Genesis 14. On his return from the daring rescue of Lot from four enemy kings Abraham encountered the priest Melchizedek and voluntarily surrendered to him a tithe (one-tenth) of everything he had. T The word tithe in Hebrew is maaser and in Greek dekate. It literally means "tenth.” After the word appears in Genesis it occurs twenty-eight times in the Old Testament. It appears in two references in the New Testament: in Matthew 23:23 and in Hebrews 7, where it describes Abraham's relationship to Christ by drawing a parallel between his tithe and his acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty. 

Although the tithe is mentioned in the law, no punishment was indicated for not tithing. There is a consequence (the loss of blessings), but—do not misinterpret this— there is no punishment from God for not tithing. The rewards of tithing are described in Malachi 3:10-11 where God promises to pour out a blessing and keep the devourer away. Tithing should always be a voluntary act on the part of God's people. 

Whereas not tithing causes a withholding of God’s blessings, tithing with proper motives invokes God’s blessings: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it may not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,” says the Lord of hosts. “And all the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,” says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 3:10-12)

Was the tithe intended to help establish the physical church and pay the wages of "full-time” ministers? If so, it took a long time for the word to get around, because it was not until Moses was given the law that the tithe filled this need. No, the tithe was established as a physical, earthly demonstration of man’s commitment to God. God understood our greedy, selfish nature and provided an identifiable sign of our sincerity. By surrendering some of our physical resources, we testify to our origin, just as a farmer does when he surrenders some of his crop back to the earth from which it came. To verify this purpose, it is necessary to go back to Malachi. Malachi was a prophet sent by God to confront His people with the fact that they had turned from Him. As could be expected, they denied it. They thought God had deserted them, for they claimed to be obeying Him. But they worshiped only when it was convenient. They gave to God, but their gifts were sick and blemished. They gave only for social or ceremonial purposes. But Malachi struck to the heart of the issue. He asked, "Will a man rob God?” They denied it saying, "How have we robbed Thee?” The evidence was presented in the fact that God’s storehouse was not full. The people were suffering with meager provisions, affliction on every side, lack of leadership, and disunity. How did God indicate their real problem? Their lack of giving proved they had turned away from their source of blessing. Giving the tithe is the outward sign of inner commitment. It is material surrender prompted by spiritual surrender. Thus God said the tithe is an expression of commitment (or lack of it) by which we can determine our relationship to Him. It was never intended that everyone should give the same, but each should give according to his abundance and his conviction. The tenth was considered the minimum. The story of Job is a clear and striking reminder that no one, no matter how powerful he is, has a permanent hold on anything in this world. Suddenly stripped of his many possessions, Job pointed to his mortality as the undeniable evidence of God’s controlling ownership: Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away (1:21). When done for the right reason tithing is confirmation of God’s controlling ownership, which means we simply manage what He has entrusted to us. Yet, many Christians seem to ignore the facts and cling to their money as if it were theirs for eternity. 

How much should Christians tithe, and is tithing enough? There are several additional offerings described as the “tithes of your increase” in Deuteronomy. These were special offerings meant to care for the priests, the poor, the sick, and the elderly. It is not possible to come up with an amount, but I calculate these total “regular” gifts to be approximately 23 percent per year. That excludes nonregular gifts to meet specific needs. Today it would be the equivalent of a family’s committed giving. God may convict you to give to special needs beyond your regular giving. A family that finds itself unable to make a commitment of a tenth of its resources to God should realistically examine its spending and living habits. Perhaps that will require a critical examination of spiritual values as well. If more funds were needed for family conveniences, the average family would somehow find the means to buy what they wanted. God never intended for everyone to give the same amount or in the same way, but each should give bountifully and cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:6-7). The tithe is a testimony of God’s ownership and thus is meant to be individualized. Deuteronomy 14:23 says: And you shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the first-born of your herd and your flock, in order that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always.

In order to bring our tithes into the “storehouse,” it is necessary to determine what, exactly, the storehouse is. In biblical times it was a physical place where the Jews delivered their offerings of grain or animals. A storehouse had specific functions according to God’s Word. 

1. To feed the tribe of Levi (Numbers 18:24-29). The priests and the tribe of Levi would be the equivalent of pastors, church staff, missionaries, and evangelists today. The Levites were the overseers of the storehouse (as far as we know), but the contributions were strictly designated as to use. Some food was always available to care for the poor and the sick so that no one should ever starve. 

2. To feed the Hebrew widows and orphans living in the Hebrew city (Deuteronomy 14:28-29). That would be equivalent to the widows and orphans served in a local church. 

3. To feed the Gentile poor living in the Hebrew city (Deuteronomy 14:28-29). Today’s equivalent would be the unsaved people in the community surrounding a local church.